Monthly Archives: August 2006

Newsreel: The USA In The News

With the impending wet dream the current US administration is bound to have after waiting 50 years for Fidel Castro to possibly bite the dust, its only a matter of time before a river of Cuba Libre is flowing like water down the Hill. After all, getting your world super-power ass owned while invading one of the smallest islands in the world on a beach called the Bay of Pigs is bound to leave a bit of resentment. So what happens when Castro dies? Unfortunately that means the focus of what is really troubling American will once again shift into yet another unknown direction.

Could it be Iraq again? Gays & Marriage? – According to Republicans these are two different points of contention— and we cannot forget about the flea infested Mexicans making an Olympic run for the border.

Or maybe we can re-focus Castro’s brother Raul or on our rocketing oil prices; maybe our rising interest rates; or Fluffy, the lovable chubby kitty stuck on a lemond plant in suburban Boston.

How about Donald Trump and all those reality shows? or simply continue pointing fingers at who f*cked up Katrina the most. Hell, why not give Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitism comments yet another 15 minutes of fame? You know, just for kicks.

It is no secret the US populous as a whole cannot grasp more then three maybe four local or world events at any one given time or their attention span begins to falter. Hence why you have to spoon feed the audience or they will suffer the newscaster’s version of brain freeze. It wasn’t always like that but FoxNews and CNN have both been introducing this format for years.

That is why you can’t have it all, no, no, no, that would be information overload. People might stop watching CNN and switch to TBS and catch reruns of Friends instead. I mean, its funnier to hear Phoebe’s rendition of ‘Smelly Cat,’ –the one feline who no one loves— rather than the version in which he straps himself to a jacket full of C4 and takes out half a market square. CNN knows this… too many sad stories and you risk people changing the channel –and that, ladies and gentlemen is not capitalism— that is just lost revenue to competitors. That is why, throw a few happy go-lucky stories about a carnival or a heart-warming tale of an old man and his dog. You know to balance things out.

Oh, and now that Irag and Afghanistan are no longer the searing anvils of evil America insisted we needed to obliterate. I find it funny that geopolitically the countries are still there, sure the governments in place are all American puppets but where are the roughly 100,000 dead Iraqis, listed as either missing or killed? Why don’t we hear THAT on CNN? But no worries boys and girls the oil is still there, safe. Somehow we made sure not to blow those pumps with Tomahawk missiles, which would from time to time get confused and hit, lets say a civilian apartment building, whoops!

So, now the lighthouse of capitalism is circling again, ever so vigilant, always ready to spot the next hot spot in the world that needs some good old fashion liberating, yeehaw! As long as they are ain’t blacks (Rwanda, anyone?), unless there are some sweet diamond mines or huge oil reserves and if that is the case I am sure an understanding can be worked out.

Once the agreement is in place, then just stand back and watch the United States of America defend human rights, stick to the Geneva convention and teach you the many advantages of capitalism and consumerism. But, as a note to the wise, remember Capitalism is only called capitalism when you are at the top of the food chain, when you are at the bottom capitalism can be confused with terms like oppression, sweat shops that pay a pittance and my favourite: child labour.

Perhaps when a golden horde of weed-smoking-homo-erotically-charged-Mexicans start stampeding across the border; blowing themselves up right after getting married then Mr. Bush might actually worry about his citizens and the world community rather than this own flagging approval ratings.

Why do Americans follow such an idiotic man is still beyond me. He is bound to go down in history as one of the worst presidents.I mean, he LIED to all you people. Clean and simple. But what do you do? You re-elect him! Well, at least he hasn’t started World War III yet, but sadly, with that man there is hope.

Conversation at Kalendar: We are not on a Schedule

While sitting at a small two-seat table at Kalendar –a charming café on the outer east limit of little Italy—a friend of mine asked me a very interesting question regarding relationships.

‘Mauricio,’ she said after placing her glass of cold Summer enhanced Chardonnay back on the table. ‘Has anyone ever told you are handsome?’ Without hesitation, I said, ‘Why, yes.’ No way I could have hid the glee in my response even if I had tried.

‘No, I meant, as a pick up line.’ I looked down for a moment, ‘Well, you weren’t being specific. In that case, no; at least not by anyone who wasn’t drunk.’ Suddenly I didn’t feel so hot anymore.
‘I see,’ she smiled.

Kalendar is one of those charming jazzy places, a perfect first date location: non committal or threatening but with enough décor, a menu and a sense of cosiness which elevates it a few notches above run-of-the-mill places like Just Desserts or other non-descript cafes littering The Danforth. You just got to love that turn-of-the century Victorian feel that oozes a heft that it is neither uninviting or pretentious.

‘What brought this question forth?’ I wondered. As these are not inquiries I come to expect from platonic friends. ‘Well, this is what happened…’ She took a second long gulp and simply said that she was utterly tired of the dating scene.

She went through the whole ‘been there, done that.’ You see, Kamela my friend was annoyed not so much at the meat markets that have existed since one gender discovered that it could –without a second thought and with much gusto —sexually objectify the other. What bothered her what that after so many dates in her lifetime, the whole dating scene, particularly in its infant stages felt like a string of glorified job interviews: A don’t call us, well call you if you make the cut ideology where Tom, Steve or John were given a set of questions and depending on their (honest; preconceived; or outright Machiavellian) answers would secure at the very least a second date.
With the expectation of some sort of sexual gratification from both parties, of course. But it was now all too routine – even worse— it had the feeling of a job. ‘Isn’t this stuff supposed to be fun with the flirting, and the laughing and the twinkle in the eye?’

‘Called me a romantic,’ I said, ‘but shouldn’t this sort of thing happen more, uh, naturally? I do not think that two people should have to stop conversation flow and open the floor for some generally boring ‘what is your favourite food?’ exposition to occur. That stuff never works, otherwise it starts sounding like a bad Steven Segal movie and look where the guy is now? No one gives a shit.

‘I would suggest doing the proverbial library, art gallery thing thing. You know finding places where by the mere fact that you are both there automatically speaks –without the need of words if I may add— a lot about each other even when no words have been exchanged.’

‘Sure, this is where sometimes friend hook-ups come in, since they may end up doing the main legwork for you. But since I like to take my fate in my own hands I would rather say: Join a social group, a bowling league, an environmental group, anything to get you out other and finding someone which whom you already are bound to have a number of things in common. Like pets? then do some Humane Society volunteering.’

‘Take me for example, I found one of the loves of my life while taking an English course at U of T. Why? Because I am a geek and I love to read. Chances were that at the very least one cute, well-read and above all intelligent woman would have taken the same class as me. Sure it was a long shot, but no different than going to any martini lounge on a Friday night and I got to read a few good books along the way.’

Kamela took another sip from her glass and gave me a ‘You are so full of shit, you are making it sound too perfect to be true.’
‘To be quite honest,’ I said to balance things out, ‘I remember the pickings to be quite putrid but you know what? I did get lucky and I found someone and even though we went through the: What is your favourite food? And; Which is your favourite movie of all time status quo set of question. I can tell you that it all felt so natural that the job interview motif never entered my head, not even once. I was simply just too happy to know more about this person then feeling that I HAD to ask this questions in order to avoid dating a psychopath.’

‘I am not saying that finding a mate is simple, Kamela.’ I said as I finished my wine. I just think we put too much emphasis on loneliness (or maybe we just get too horny, who knows?) But ultimately, if you are happy without a partner, then who am I to tell you are wrong?

‘Suggestions?’ She demanded again. ‘You want the straight to the point variety?’
‘Hell, yeah.’
‘Do something you would do for free. Nothing stupid, just something that has picked your curiosity and join a group. There are tons of groups like that in Toronto. If you like going for dinner because you love tasting different foods abd drink, then there are tons of groups like that out there. Fencing? I am sure there is something out there. Sailing? I have tried that. Skydiving? Hey, you only live once, particularly if the chute doesn’t open.’

I once joined an Egyptology course at the Royal Ontario Museum because I like Egyptology and its history. Just don’t use the “I do not like going places by myself,” excuse since remember, loneliness is biased towards the shy and the ugly… and even the most unattractive people can overcome some of that with the right attitude. So if you are deathly shy, then you are in for a rough and lonely ride. Unless you don’t mind being alone.

It sounds cliche, but it is always our own selves who seem to keep deterring us from being truly happy. Kamela is a very attractive lady. I am sure she will find someone. I know it, I just who it. Maybe if she wasn’t so pragmatic. Good luck Hon.

If you would like to find more info on Kalendar AND their menu click here.

Bamboo: Now Ultra and Forgotten

I remember long gone summer days when one could leave the city of Toronto by going onto Queen Street. It was possible in one moment to be in the middle of the hustle and ‘tude of downtown and on the next be in a Caribbean oasis where friendly faces were as common as ice cold bottles of Carib beer; And there was a lot of beer.

Once located at 314 Queen West, I speak of course of the now defunct Bamboo: More a laidback sanctuary than a bar and more a private party than a club. With its tacky beach décor and wild colours, it was the type of place where you could earn your chevrons quickly and where it did not take much to become a regular. The managers remembered your name easily and the wait staff would pass knowing smiles as a reminder that you were in a cosy and temperate Shangri-La. This was a place where if you tipped honestly, you get ongoing drink samples ‘on-the-house’ and an unspoken promise of even better service on your next visit.

It was not unheard of to order a round for a stranger just because they were there. As chances were someone had already bought you a round just because you were there. It was an institution that kept on giving.

The rooftop patio at Bamboo was a rarity. A place where suits, artistic types and just about anyone could check the North American rat race at the door and let themselves be people wanting to get some sun. Enjoy a forum where conversation flowed like Appleton rum and if you stayed late enough, catch some calypso, reggae or just about any rhythm that would have your hips jumping for the rest of the night.

Then about four years ago… It came as a total shock to find our favourite hang out was closing its doors. Not due to lack of business, but greed from the landlord. Bamboo’s lease was due and the landlord was trying to capitalize more than they could chew by asking for an arm, a leg, plus the other leg and a few remaining fingers to renew it.

Bamboo’s owners, unable to reach an understanding were forced to relocate to what felt like an ill, third-rate site on Queen’s Quay. What was once an ode to the zest of Caribbean life became a shadowy, sunless pub. Although they shared the same name, the soul of the original Bamboo can be said to have died peacefully on Queen Street West. What carried over was a hollow shell as very few regulars or for that matter even fewer staff ever made the transition.

After two years of limbo, the skeleton crew of the once mighty Bamboo closed its doors, this time without fanfare or much press.

From The Ashes…

…And obviously deeper pockets, Bamboo’s successor flew up from its ashes: Ultra Super Club. An establishment trying hard to channel its predecessors laid back coolness to the point of adding the word ‘Super’ onto its name, as if to make sure we knew it’s special.

Now I am not saying Ultra Super(!) Club is an ugly duckling. The new owners obviously spent a lot of coin making the place look like a fleshed out ad for Wallpaper magazine. Nothing but high-end Ikea looking furniture here, but true coolness comes from a vibe and not just the décor, even if it did help a little.

While trying to be open-minded I commissioned a second expedition to USC in July. The first had been passable at best. However during winter visiting the patio would have been outright stupid and cold, but for those who like to be told the obvious, it was very cold.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Sure it still tries too hard to impress. You can expect a lot of couples and large parties to be there. Also if you are interested in meeting members of the opposite sex, once the music explodes into party mode, the meat market becomes open for business. So if you are single, well, you really can’t go wrong with that. But Bamboo it is not.

Unlike Bamboo, the drinks are on the pricey side. However $6 for a local beer is hardly highway robbery but I guess someone has to pay for the new Ikea décor and in this case that someone is going to be the women who might easily pay $12 for a cocktail. Enjoy.

Sure I have not spoken much about the interior of the place and there is a reason for that. I am focusing on the rooftop patio, but for those who are wondering about the lower floor of USC: It is quite elegant with a lot of red fabrics and a Yorkville feel: Which is generally snooty and pretentious, particularly from the still-not-gorgeous-enough-to-be-models-but-would-like-to-be members of the staff.

It is a good place to hold a summer gathering, but I am sad to inform that Bamboo and what it once represented will not be found in here. Even if it is cleaner, more modern but at the same time, more phoney. Bamboo, you are and will be missed.
Want to check what Bamboo, ahem, Ultra looks like now? Click here.